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Interviews | January 15, 2016

Karim Rashid

He is one of the most eccentric contemporary designer. His signature is around homes, chairs, nail varnish, glasses, Kenzo perfumes, Pepsi cans, Naples metro station. A true icon. Just like his originating Egyptian symbols.

words Nadia Afragola

Iconic, eclectic, versatile, colorful. Which of these adjectives describes you best?

I would say I am colorful in my character, but versa le in my work. I literally love color and I am not afraid of it, it’s one of the most beau ful phenomena of our existence. Color is life, it is something that touches our emo ons, our body and our spiritual being. My work is versatile because I avoid to copy myself. I can move from designing a building to crea ng a fashion item, and in each project I always try to be original.

Your works are part of the main collection of 14 museums worldwide, including The MoMA in NYC. How did you reach this success?

I didn’t actively ask to be in those museums, i think my creations have been included because they are made with quality. But I want to be frank, I am honored to be in those museums because I think some times the design world does not take me seriously, and I am very serious about what I do and how I live.

You are a citizen of the world, with Egyptian roots. Do they help you in your life and in your work?

I can’t say my Egyptian heritage has consciously shaped my concept of design, but we all are shaped by our DNA, that most of the times comes out subconsciously. For example, I only realized about 10 years ago that my symbols are similar to Egyptian hieroglyphics. I never thought about it before then and I wondered why I developed this language over a period of 30 years. it started when I was designing power tools for Black and Decker in the mid Eighties. Black & Decker refused to give designers credit for work so I created a symbol, which I embedded into the plastic molding. It was a way of marking my work, of denoting my creative input.

You always wear glasses, mostly white ones. Are they part of your trademark or do you wear them for a sight deficiency?

I have had poor eyesight since I was a child, so they are a big part of my life. A few years ago I got lasik surgery. My eyesight is still not perfect, so i con nue to wear glasses, but not on a daily basis. I would wear them more if they embraced digital technology. If I could only just put on a pair of smart eyeglasses that could capture informa on in space and all the data that is perpetually streaming around us, so I would not need a mobile phone, a laptop, etc.

How do you choose a pair of glasses?

I always loved glasses and I purchased hundreds of pairs. Many people have no idea what frames suit their face, so my suggestion is to go to an eyeglass shop with an open minded and original person who has a great aesthetic eye. For many years I wore Matsuda, Yohji Yamamoto, and Cutler and Gross, then in 2001 I designed some glasses for Alain Mikli, which I wear mostly now.

Have you ever considered creating your own eyewear brand?

I always wanted to have my own brand and I was approached recently by two of the largest companies in the world, but both thought my name brand was not big enough and didn’t give me a deal. I am waiting for one of them to change his mind because I think my name can handle it.

What is your favorite material?

I always loved plas c since i was a child. Plastic wasn’t just another material to me, but it was the lively, energe c material of all materials. I would argue that plastic is now part of our nature. This is the inevitable course of our existence. I can remember the countless objects I had in my bedroom as a child that played a significant and formative role in my life. I also loved fluorescent colors and digitally inspired decoration. But now there are organic plastics and I am obsessed with working with biodegradable, recycled, or even derived materials from other sources like corn, sugar, bark and Acai instead of oil.

You once said “Even removing can bring value to life.” How this could happen?

Every good design, should replace three lesser designs, to cut down on waste, and to build long-lasting relationships with consumers and reinforcing a brand’s core value. Designers have the power to shape a better, smarter world, to simplify and inspire, to make well-made and beautiful products accessible to all. I realize that we live in a very complex world, and I’m just contributing as much as I can, while I am on this planet.

How do you deal with blank moments while on a creative moment?

I have never had writers block. I have more ideas than companies could ever produce. I perpetually observe and analysis and dissect everything around me in our built environments. I think, observe, and sketch profusely, constantly, and imagine a utopic, beautiful, experiental, positive world of global love.